The National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ) is this year aiming at improved participation in major international events.
REPORT BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Following a forgettable 2012 which marked a drastic decline in local athletics standards, Tendai Tagara who is leading the new Naaz executive has set to expose more athletes to competitive international meets.
Few Zimbabweans participate on the International Athletics Associations Federations (IAAF) circuit and the country has never fielded an athlete on the prestigious Diamond League tours.
Tagara said they were also taking seriously regional and continental competitions which are used as qualifiers for world contests.
“We want to compete in major international events this year. Our main goal is to gear up our athletes to be competitive on the world stage,” said Tagara.
The biggest athletics event this year is August’s IAAF World Championships to be held in Moscow.
Injured US-based sprinter Ngonidzashe Makusha remains Zimbabwe’s brightest medal prospect at the biennial track and field event after striking a long-jump bronze medal at the last edition in Daegu, South Korea, becoming the first Zimbabwean to win a medal at the World Championships.
Olympians Sharon Tavengwa, Cuthbert Nyasango and Wirimai Zhuwawo are also expected to take part in various marathon races around the world.
Zimbabwe also intends to send athletes to the IAAF World Youth Championships for Under-17 athletes in Ukraine in July.
The African Youth Championships to be held in Nigeria in March will be used to qualify for the global youth event.
Last year rising sprinters Dumi-sani Bhebhe and Tinashe Mutanga qualified for the more senior World Junior Championships in Spain although Mutanga failed to travel to Barcelona due to academic commitments, while Bhebhe did not perform well.
Zimbabwe is however unlikely to send athletes to the World Cross Country Championships to be held in Poland in March.
Over the years, poor funding has been NAAZ’s major drawback in competing in international meets with the association heavily relying on the IAAF annual grant.
However, the Tagara administration inherited a debt-free association from the previous Joseph Mungwari regime.
“It is obvious that these international competitions need a lot of money but we are hopeful we will manage to get some help from various stakeholders. We want to have a policy where we must eat what we can afford so that we remain debt- free,” said Tagara.